The Faber Book of 20th Century Women's Poetry

December 25, 2019

A cache of wounds lie open bleeding reading here

Casualty upon casualty

Free bright and vibrant women spirited in grain

Angry resentments pain, man-empted to despair

Each reaches cannot reach to those things separated

Be it love reciprocal, God's peace, or merely a quiet air

Women heart-beaten by debt rent on death's divisions

The loneliness of selfhood presses hard their conscious wills

Is canned and pressured, head expended unfulfillment

The steam for locomotion, or to lead a feeding chain

Released as verses teeming keening in an urgent paean

Writing as men or as plain and open lesbian

Making of train-wreck psyches incandescent valentines

Of poured blank verse or free; bucolics, valedictions, hymns

Their lives writ contrarieties of haughty male regard

Which all non-males must listen to, or make believe they heard

A grab for the glittering prizes is verboten you, my dear

But up-front, above all, having observed how others lumped

Visceral mortal pains, took surrogate disasters

Attuned in waiting rooms, where palliate ballet dances

Ooze missed refrains like passing trains, as sticking plasters

All-in-one-hampers shuttering-up each life-enhancing viand

Haunted and hunted by Great Death, Miltonic light denied

Their circumstance a petulance mad manic to deride

All chance, all condescension, all concession vitrified

Weary of too much weight like truth, and like to press to death

Inquisitors of old accused, abused, such recreants

Too laden to find fissures clear enough to prise, fight free

For succour to new air, exact a break, so come to breathe

They wore affliction's weeds, and ate the bitter breads she kneads